CIA The Myth and the Madness

Title:                      CIA The Myth and the Madness

Author:                 Patrick J. McGarvey

McGarvey, Patrick J. (1972). CIA: The Myth and the Madness. New York: Saturday Review Press

LCCN:    72082770

JK468.I6 M29


Date Updated:  November 5, 2015

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

The title and contents of this book do not quite match. McGarvey spent three years in CIA and another three in DIA as a civilian. He also spent eight in uniform working on cryptologic matters. While with CIA, he was with the deputy director for intelligence (DDI), or analytical side, and never served in the clandestine service. Beyond the fact that he spent only a minority of his fourteen-year career with CIA, he himself stated that the crisis in U.S. intelligence involved not only CIA but also nine other governmental departments and agencies. He categorically assures the reader that this is a compilation of his personal experiences in intelligence and not an expose of CIA. He also admits that he could not pose as an expert on the organization of U.S. intelligence. His placing of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) over the National Security Council (NSC) and putting Science and Technology under basic intelligence are good proofs of this and show a careless and unreliable work. There is a mixture of autobiographical, descriptive, and critical portions, with observations and criticisms flowing confusingly back and forth between CIA and the remainder of the intelligence community. Among the criticisms are the foolish practices and shortcomings he observed from his level and his belief that CIA is “an insufferable bureaucratic morass” whose reality belies the myth of efficient intrigue. His proposals include functional reforms and steps to gain greater control over the intelligence community. The work was reviewed prior to publication by CIA, which led to certain changes and deletions. DIS’s Bibliography [see below] thought it biased, containing frequent errors of fact and lacking realistic solutions. Thomas Ross’s review called it “bad writing, bad taste, bad logic.”

This is a review by the Defense Intelligence School.[2]

An indictment of CIA, DIA, and the US Intelligence Community by a former CIA and DIA employee with 14 years of low to middle level intelligence experience. Although McGarvey notes and illustrates several of the major problems in US intelligence activities, his biased and unbalanced criticisms, frequent errors of fact, and lack of realistic solutions detract from the book’s value.

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[3]

The author served for fourteen years at the working level in the DIA, the NSA, and the ClA. His book was cleared for publication (after certain deletions and changes for security reasons) by the CIA, and gives a popular account of the human side of intelligence work, with special attention to a number of blunders and shortcomings. In spite of such negative aspects McGarvey, like other professionals, regards the intelligence system as the first line of national defense, but one in need of a major overhaul rather than periodic “cosmetic changes.” He advocates a total functional reorganization around the basic steps involved—collection, processing, reporting, and clandestine operation. He argues that Congress has lost effective control over the intelligence community and that what is needed for this purpose is a joint committee of both houses modeled after the Joint Atonic Energy Committee. In order to restore public confidence in intelligence he recommends that the president, through his Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, make public on annual report on the activities of the community, a suggestion which was later taken up by Lyman Kirkpatrick.

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, pp. 307-308

[2] Defense Intelligence School (1981). Bibliography of Intelligence Literature: A Critical And Annotated Bibliography of Open-Source Literature (7th ed, rev.). Washington, DC: Defense Intelligence School, p. 42

[3] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., p.


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2 Responses to CIA The Myth and the Madness

  1. Pingback: Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage And Covert Operations | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  2. Pingback: Utilization of Intelligence chapter 5 | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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